EDU 6524: Assessing Student Understanding (Blog 4)

Rubrics can serve as a tool to determine students’ level of understanding based on their responses. Rubrics allow both the teacher and student to assess progress and areas for growth. In order to use rubrics effectively, students need to be aware of the criteria and use the rubric as a guide for completing quality work.

When creating rubrics, teachers need to be clear about what quality work looks like and provide samples of work at different levels on the rubric. Students should become familiar with the language on the rubric so teachers can provide descriptive feedback connected to various levels. Involving students in identifying characteristics of quality work allows them to have a clearer picture of the evidence they must demonstrate to show understanding. Involving students in the assessment process provides many benefits that allow students to take ownership of their learning. O’Connor (2009) states, “Student involvement in determining criteria and then judging their work using these criteria achieves several things at once; it gives students more control of their education, it makes evaluation feel less punitive, and it provides an important learning experience in itself” (p. 189). Teachers can then use student work to refine the rubrics created. According to Wiggins & McTighe (2005), “A rubric is never complete until it has been used to evaluate student work and an analysis of different levels of work is used to sharpen the descriptor” (p. 180). This is important because in order for rubrics to serve their purpose they have to provide valid inferences. Wiggins & McTighe (2005) propose two questions for teachers to think about when sharpening descriptors:

  • Could the proposed criteria be met but the performer still not demonstrate deep understanding?
  • Could the proposed criteria not be met but the performer nonetheless still show understanding?

(p. 188)

Providing criteria in the form of a rubric also helps make grades meaningful. Averaging grades over time does not represent a student’s true level of understanding. Students may receive the same grade but have different understandings. Rubrics offer a way to describe a student’s understanding. Wiggins & McTighe (2005) state, “It reflects the reality that individuals can have diverse but valid understanding of the same ideas and experiences” (p. 177). Rubrics also provide meaningful information when communicating grades with parents. Grades have meaning when they are aligned with descriptors that provide a clear picture of students’ understanding. This artifact, RubricUBD, is the rubric I used for my Understanding By Design unit. I designed a four-point rubric to score both the pre- and post-assessment. Each question is worth four points and will receive a score from 1-4. Since each question is aligned with a learning goal, I will be able to determine each students’ level of understanding at each learning goal. The criteria on the rubric for each level will help me determine whether the students’ performance met the learning target.


Chappuis, J., Stiggins, R., Chappuis, S., & Arter, J. (2012). Classroom Assessment for Student Learning: Doing It Right-Using it Well (2nd ed.). Pearson Education, Inc..

O’Connor, K. (2009). How to Grade for Learning, K-12 (3rd ed.). Corwin Press.

Wiggins, G., & McTighe, J., (2005) Understanding by Design. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.


This entry was posted in Standard 01. Instructional Planning, Standard 03. Curriculum and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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